The En-Primeur Insider: Fourth Edition, with Alistair Cooper MW

In my tasting of En Primeur 2020’s a particular Fronsac estate stood out – Chatêau Dalem. The estate has 33 hectares planted to 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec.

This is a winery dedicated to progression, and with a keen eye on the future and climate change. They have committed to doubling their Malbec plantings and increasing their Cabernet Franc to 12% in the next five years. Alongside this they have employed the services of renowned consultant Eric Boissenot from the 2020 vintage. Boissenot is famed for his work at Lafite, Mouton-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Leoville Las Cases and many others. A pretty impressive haul of names!

Fantastic Monsieur Fronsac

Here’s what I thought of this excellent 2020 when tasting earlier this week for United Cellars and JancisRobinson.com:

‘The nose shows a beautiful floral and violet tinged character along with crushed raspberry and sandalwood. A ripe and opulent palate that still shows wonderful freshness on the palate with delineated tannins and a fine, long warming and pleasing finish. Quite a decadent wine but still maintains it’s vibrancy admirably. This will age well, but also should be approachable from 2024’   16.5 Points / 93 points  {read more}

With such a vast region as Bordeaux, it is perhaps unsurprising that even within the same vintage there can be such variability between appellations. In hot and less homogenous years such as 2020, it is therefore even more important to choose your wines wisely. It is looking like a particularly impressive year for the Right Bank, and the fabled names of St Emilion and Pomerol will spring to mind – but for fantastic wines at a snip of the price from less than five miles down the road, then look no further than Fronsac.

Fronsac is an appellation that performs exceptionally well in warm vintages, thanks to it having some of the best limestone terroir of the Right Bank. Whilst in cooler years the tannins might be a little rustic, in warmer years they can provide wines of unbeatable value. Expect vivid and lush red fruits and an ability to stay fresh in even the hottest vintages – these wines are tailor made for 2020. 

As you might expect, Merlot is the key player here with 78% of the total plantings (800 hectares in total), Cabernet Franc has 13% and Cabernet Sauvignon 7%. These three varieties MUST comprise at least 80% of the blend, with Malbec, Carmenere and Petit Verdot also permitted. For years wine writers have been positively gushing about Fronsac’s potential yet it remains a bit of an insider’s secret. 

Alistair Cooper Master of Wine and Esteemed Critic

 

 

- Alistair Cooper, 
Master of Wine & Esteemed Critic